Hi Kaylee, and welcome to our forum! Thanks for posting your question. I think we've all been there at your "career discovery" stage at some point :)
My specific answers to your question are below, but I recommend doing some homework first -- some "informational interviewing" (we have an article about exactly this: http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2009/03/informational-interview
). Where do the graduates from your PhD program go? Do you know any successful epidemiology PhD students who have a career you would like to emulate? Talk to them, and ask how they did it -- I guarantee you'll get some great advice.
Also, I think you are forming biases that are not necessarily helpful. Do all epidemiology tenure-track professors in the world stay up at night worried with grants? Instead of focusing on the worst-case scenario, think about the job duties, and ask yourself if you like them. Have you written a grant yet, or helped a professor with one? It is a great way to see if you would like doing that.
Putting these ideas together: have you met any professors that do all the things you like and still have time to write grants and manage? If anything, I believe your work in a data-heavy field of science would allow you to "get your hands dirty" far more often than one in the life sciences.
Just some food for thought. Below are finally the specific answers you have asked for :)
- Honestly, it sounds to me like being a tenure-track professor is your favorite career, but that you are scared of the risks. It's great to know the risks, but you must weigh them properly. I recommend asking tenure-track professors at your institution if they have such concerns, and find out how they work around them. I don't think it's quite as dire as you say!
- Also, with a data-science background you could have the best of both worlds: "embed" with faculty studying your disease area of interest, and be a part of their grants (or start a "bioinformatics core facility") to fund your salary. I have seen variations of this that provide with ample time to do your own research. And if it's a disease you are interested in, perhaps helping others with their data would make you happy?
"The single factor that differentiates Nobel laureates from other scientists is training with another Nobel laureate." -- Sol Snyder